John Hawkins



Dr John Hawkins

Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff, home to a huge load of pictures, and my daily blog.

My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.

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Recent Entries:
Tom Tom
Belgravia with Al
Tickets for Royal Ascot
Lazy Sunday
Zoo, Rossopomodoro and St. James's
Work and Play
Racing
Wednesday
Tax Return
Hampstead Again
Hampstead and Woodlands
Bumbling
Pizza and Tangled
The Whole Nine Years
Chie Back From Japan
Twelfth Night
Monday
Stick Man
Grey and Miserable
New Year's Day
Zoo and New Year's Eve
Back to London
To The East Midlands
Winter Wonderland
Guildford
Boxing Day
Christmas Day
Christmas Eve
Christmas Shopping
Tuesday
Monday

Tom Tom
[Wednesday 20th January 2016]
Jim and Andrew suggested going out for lunch today, and we somehow settled on Tom Tom, where, as ever one of their toasted sandwiches is not quite enough, so I ended up having a second lunch back at the office afterwards. As always when in any kind of civilised social setting my two reprobate luncheon companions ensured the conversation remained highly inappropriate throughout, and I felt rather bad for the two genteel Belgravia ladies sitting at the next table. Particularly as it is so cramped in there.

In the evening I finally got my blog up to date, having not updated it for pretty much an entire month!
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Belgravia with Al
[Tuesday 19th January 2016]
Al suggested going for a drink this evening, primarily as we'd been having an email thread about plans for Royal Ascot, and my rather outlandish plan for being admitted to the Royal Enclosure, and he wanted to discuss it in person. He suggested that he'd come to Belgravia for a change, so we started out at the Horse and Groom, then went for an aperitif at Joe's (the Olivo chain's bar, above Olivomare), then dinner at Oliveto, rounded off with a final drink at the Boisdale. That was all very civilised.
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Tickets for Royal Ascot
[Monday 18th January 2016]
In the past few days I'd got rather stuck on the idea of going to Royal Ascot this year (I think it had largely grown out of asking Al and Kyle if they wanted to come along to Cheltenham at the end of this month), and in particular I was rather fixated with the idea of getting into the exclusive Royal Enclosure. Having found a slightly outlandish "loophole" of sorts to get into the Royal Enclosure, despite not being a member, it's been top of mind pretty much constantly since last week, so I decided today to just get on with it and book the tickets. So that's something a bit special to look forward to this summer.

We had Spanish food for dinner, largely because we had a Spanish omelette that had been hanging around in the fridge for a bit and needed eating. On the way home, after the usual Monday evening commuting unpleasantness (I still don't really understand why Monday evening is consistently worse than the rest of the week) I attempted to buy a suitable bottle of wine, but didn't want to trek quite as far as Theatre of Wine, so instead had a look what was on offer in either the small Coop or the small Sainsbury's between the tube and home. Neither had anything of even remote interest, so I left both empty handed.
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Lazy Sunday
[Sunday 17th January 2016]
Mostly tried to keep Erika entertained at home in the daytime, as we were a bit too lazy to go out (it was, in our defence, a bit cold, winter having finally arrived properly in the last few days). I did make one foray out in the morning to go and buy bread and coffee beans, but even for that I cheated and used the bus to travel less than a mile to the coffee shop.

Made the old stalwart lentil and tomato soup for lunch, which Erika actually ate (I think the previous time I'd done this she just picked the bits of pasta out and left the rest).

In the evening the girls went to see a friend of Chie's for a nabe party, and I was given a couple of hours off. Although, I say that, just as I was starting to relax I got a message from Chie to say Erika had dropped her toy rabbit out of her buggy on the way to the station, so I had to venture out and find it. On my way out I spotted a fox, very casually eating out of somebody's bin. I stood just a couple of metres away to take a picture, it didn't seem at all bothered.

Fortunately I found the rabbit before the fox did.
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Zoo, Rossopomodoro and St. James's
[Saturday 16th January 2016]
I'm not entirely sure I understand the enduring appeal of the zoo for Erika, as quite often when we go there she seems fairly disinterested in the actual animals. In particular I'd assumed over the winter, when there's not so much on (no face painting, no bouncy castle) that she wouldn't be so keen, but somehow regardless it seems to still be a pretty much weekly occurrence. I suspect it's something to do with having my undivided attention for a while, and also partly the ritual of the gathering of snacks from the cupboard before we go, getting the bus to go there, and often eating the majority of the snacks on the bus. Last thing at night Erika usually asks where we're going tomorrow (and of course most of the time I have to tell her I'm going to work) and similarly first thing in the morning she'll ask where we're going today. Quite often at either or both of these times she'll also put in a request to go to the zoo at the next available opportunity. As she had asked several times this week I felt compelled to take her there this morning.

This time she seemed keen to go and see the giraffes, so we went straight there after getting in, and in fact we focused mainly on that side of the zoo - the meerkats, the rainforest bit, the lemurs etc. Other than that we pretty much just did the obligatory turn on the carousel, said hello to the penguins, then spent the remainder of the time in the shop. Which suited me on this occasion as it was warm in there.

I managed to persuade her to not have lunch at the zoo, so as we've done once before, we went from there to Rossopomodoro in Camden, where we met Chie for lunch. It wasn't quite as successful as previous visits, the service was rather slow which seemed to rather get on Chie's nerves.

I wanted to pop down to St. James's to do a bit of shopping in the afternoon, so I set off by myself after lunch, and had a lovely hour or two wandering around St. James's, and succeeded in my main objective of buying a pair of grey flannel trousers, from Hilditch and Key, of all places. I also bought some toiletries in D. R. Harris - which for some reason I'd never actually been into before, but became an instant hit - and of course violet creams from Fortnum and Mason, wherein I had a chat with the lady behind the chocolate counter on the subject.

As I'm planning a trip to Cheltenham at the end of this month (for the Festival Trials Day) I also had half a mind to look around for a new tweed suit - the two I currently have are, ridiculous as it sounds for tweed suits, just not really country enough. They're both from Walker Slater who seem to have a very different target market than, say, Cordings - far more eccentric dandies about town than the traditional country gent. When at Cheltenham last time I looked on enviously at the bright green tweeds which are absolutely unequivocally only for countryside use. Walker Slater's tweeds tend to be a much more muted palette. So I did pop into Cordings for a nose round, but their stock seemed a bit depleted, and it seems they only sell full tweed suits for a small range of their tweeds, none of which were quite what I had in mind.

Before heading back home I went to Chinatown and bought ingredients for dinner - Erika really like duck pancakes (mock duck in our case) and we'd recently ran out of the pancakes themselves, so I stocked up on those. At dinner we somehow managed to work our way through 18 pancakes. Erika may well have eaten 9 of these. Perhaps I shouldn't let her get too fixated on one type of food like this, but given the ordeal we normally have to go through to get her to eat anything at all, it's a joy to be able to put something on the table which she'll just eat all by herself without us having to intervene.
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Work and Play
[Friday 15th January 2016]
Chie and Erika came to my office for lunch, we ate at the Asian themed cafe in my office, and Erika had sushi. Earlier in the week Erika had asked me "who did you play with at work today?", presumably thinking work was a similar setup to nursery. I explained that grown-ups don't go to work to play, they go to work. Whilst we were having lunch today, sat next to the ping pong table, the pool table, and the two foosball tables, she asked "what are those men over there doing Daddy?". "Um, yea... they're playing", I was compelled to answer. Without saying anything further on the subject she had a sort of knowing expression on her face after that, as if to imply she was resting her case.

Chie went to her Hiroshimakenjinkai in the evening, and I babysat Erika. I made macaroni cheese for dinner which seemed to go down quite well.
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Racing
[Thursday 14th January 2016]
Paid my tax bill today (in the past I've been able to pay it straight away when I've filed my return, for some reason this year I had to wait a couple of days). Oddly that felt quite satisfying.

Couldn't get into the underground at Victoria when I'd finished work today (I think just a temporary closure for overcrowding, but I really didn't feel like waiting in the scrum this time) so I got the bus home instead, which took ages.

Once I finally got home, after having dinner and putting Erika to bed, I booked my ticket and the train to go Cheltenham at the end of the month for the Festival Trials Day. I'd really enjoyed my little jaunt to Cheltenham back in November for The Open, the opportunity to be surrounded by the tweed wearing classes, and had been mulling over going to the races somewhere or other over the Christmas period as a reward for myself for having looked after Erika for those 10 days while Chie was away. I'd initially thought about taking Erika, but she didn't really seem keen, so instead found the fixture at the end of the month. Which is also good as I don't think I'll be able to make the festival proper this year.

On emailing Kyle and Al to see if on the off chance either of them might be free to come along too (neither of them were) I then hit upon the alternative idea of going to Royal Ascot this year, and spent the remainder of the evening trying to determine how to get into the Royal Enclosure without being a member (pleasingly, the answer is just to pay more).
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 13th January 2016]
Not much to report really. From my search history it looks like I spent some of the evening reading about the Festival Trials Day, and looking for new tweed suits.
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Tax Return
[Tuesday 12th January 2016]
Submitted my tax return today. Having sold quite a lot of shares to buy the flat, for this financial year for the first time I needed to fill out the capital gains tax section, as I'd gone over the annual allowance. The rules surrounding shares and capital gains calculations are a bit complicated particularly if you regularly receive shares as part of your compensation from work. I had initially thought I was going to have to get an accountant to do this for me, but was rather taken aback at the quote I had received from one (800+vat!) when fundamentally this was something like creating a spreadsheet. The engineer in me couldn't bring myself to hand over that sort of cash for effectively just feeding a list of all the sales and acquisitions into some piece of software or other, and then sending back the result. So in the past week or two I had spent quite a lot of time reading carefully through all the rules from HMRC, understanding how that all applied to our particular stock setup at work, and then writing a program to do the calculation for me. It was rather gratifying to submit my self assessment based on that today, and actually feel fairly confident I'd got it right (and moreover I'd saved a thousand quid in the process!).
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Hampstead Again
[Monday 11th January 2016]
Chie was a bit tired this evening and went to bed at the same time as Erika this evening, so once the girls were asleep I decided to slip out and pop back to Hampstead. When we'd been there yesterday, apart from the general reminder that it was so much nicer there than almost the entire rest of London, I'd spotted the Duke of Hamilton, and it occurred to me that I hadn't been there for quite a while (probably the last time was June 2009), and for some reason I felt drawn to revisit. As you might imagine for around 9pm on a Monday in January, it wasn't exactly busy, I think there were just 3 other customers in there. Slightly surreally for the day that David Bowie died, they were playing back to back Amy Winehouse. I can only conclude that there is a backlog of grief for deceased musicians and they'll get to Bowie in due course. I don't know why I haven't been to the DoH more, it's quite a characterful pub, and I imagine harks back to a Hampstead of yesteryear, when it wasn't solely the playground of the super rich, but was more a home for arty types, and in particular thespians, many of whom weren't necessarily that well off. Whether the 3 gents I shared the pub with this evening were treaders of the boards I can't really be sure - one looked like he might be, the other less so, unless they were perhaps extras on The Bill. It's the sort of pub you'd imagine Ray Winstone would like.

Also since I was in that neck of the woods I thought I might as well also pop into the Holly Bush, which I walked to from the 'Duke via a circuitous route, taking in some fascinating back streets which could just as well be country lanes. It's amazing how well Hampstead has preserved that villagey feel.
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Hampstead and Woodlands
[Sunday 10th January 2016]
I think Chie may have complained of a lack of daylight compounding her jetlag after her return from Japan, so I determined that we should go for a walk today. Hampstead Heath was the obvious choice, so we set off toward the end of the morning in that direction. It was quite a nice winter's day actually - the sky was blue, and although there was a chill in the air there was undeniably sunlight.

We got as far as the playground in Parliament Hill fields, and then it seemed like lunchtime was upon us, so we ended up not really walking over much more of the heath, instead heading quite purposefully through the backstreets of Hampstead in the direction of the Hampstead branch of Woodlands, as I'd suddenly decided I really fancied a curry.

When eating out with Erika we've generally steered clear of Indian restaurants because she just can't tolerate anything even remotely spicy - she typically says "karai!" (the Japanese word for spicy) then spits it out. I thought Woodlands might be worth a shot though, being a South Indian restaurant they specialise in dosas, and I imagined Erika would probably quite like the giant paper dosa. She did indeed, and also nibbled around the edges a bit of a couple of other things, so whilst this particular meal wasn't probably very nutritionally balanced for her, it seemed like a useful step in the right direction toward expanding her horizons a bit.

After that, Erika requested ice cream, and as she'd been so well behaved throughout lunch (particularly in the face of some challenging culinary conditions) I felt we ought to comply. A quick Google search later revealed there was a branch of Oddono's in Hampstead, which suited us perfectly.

We also did a bit of shopping whilst in Hampstead - bought some art supplies for Erika in the arty shop, and also a new pair of (quite expensive) shoes for her in Jacadi.

Generally I was left with the impression that Hampstead is much nicer than where we live. No real surprises there. When we got back home, I did a quick feasibility search for upping sticks and moving there forthwith. I looked for non-religious schools in or around Hampstead with Ofsted ratings as good as the one Erika is hopefully lined up to go to. The answer to that question was the school she is already hopefully lined up to go to. Thinking about it we had walked to Hampstead on the way there, so perhaps we should just think of our current abode as being in the "Hampstead borders" or somesuch.
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Bumbling
[Saturday 9th January 2016]
Chie had arrived back from Japan on Wednesday, and obviously I'd been at work since then, so this was the first full day for the three of us to spend together, which we wiled away happily bumbling around with no particular objective.

We started off by visiting Kentish Town Post Office, to send off the calendars I'd made with pictures of Erika in, which I'd received this week. Kentish Town Post Office is quite horrible. Easily the grottiest post office I've ever seen. It has an awful dodgy looking mobile phone accessories shop actually inside (what on earth does that have to do with the post office), and just generally looks very shabby indeed.

After that I felt we had to do something to remind ourselves Kentish Town is not all bad, so went for a coffee at my current favourite cafe, Two Doors Down. I've never actually ventured into the downstairs seating area before, but am glad we did, as it's rather delightful.

From there, we continued our wander down into Camden, and did some shopping at the Waitrose there, before getting the bus back home where we spent the remainder of the day.
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Pizza and Tangled
[Friday 8th January 2016]
Chie went out for the evening to see a play with a friend, I stayed in to look after Erika. I was feeling supremely lazy, so ordered in pizza (via Deliveroo) this time trying out a further different pizza place called Al Parco. Of the two pizzas I ordered, one was OK, the other was a bit weird (essentially one of those jars of "mixed antipasti" tipped on top). But at least the pizza wasn't all dried out like the other place we tried via Deliveroo.

I thought it might be nice, and again supremely lazy and slobbish, to watch a movie with Erika while we were eating our pizza. So I tried out Tangled, having heard it was along vaguely similar lines to Frozen, which Erika, like all pre-school girls it seems, is of course into. I think we got about a third of the way in, with the usual barrage of questions from Erika about what was going on, and what all the characters who were currently off screen were doing, before she decided she didn't really like it and wanted to watch something else instead. Ho, hum.
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The Whole Nine Years
[Thursday 7th January 2016]
Night out with some of the usual suspects from work this evening. Partly so I could have a bit of a break after 10 days of looking after Erika by myself, but also to mark 9 years since I started my current job (technically tomorrow, but Chie had already booked to go out tomorrow).

For some reason we decided to head to the Ship and Shovell to start the evening, which I'd hoped what with it being dry January and all that would be pleasantly deserted. In actual fact it was quite full, and we spent the whole time in there being jostled back and forth by people coming and going, which wasn't really much fun.

Several of the group seemed to be keen on eating sooner than later, so from there we proceeded to Lupita, the Mexican restaurant, which somehow I didn't enjoy as much as I had on previous visits. I also ordered a couple of dubious cocktails containing spirits I'm not particularly accustomed to, which I regretted a bit in hindsight.

We rounded off the evening at the Harp, which was probably the most successful of the evening's three venues in my opinion, at least in part because we arrived just as a lot of the after work crowd were leaving, and we actually had a reasonable amount of space to stand in (in fact we even had stools later on). Therein I drank cider as I usually do, but having started with beer, taken a Mexican detour via some questionable cocktails, I later regretted this a bit.
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Chie Back From Japan
[Wednesday 6th January 2016]
Chie got back from Japan today, which was a relief, as lovely as it had been to have all that time with Erika while Chie had been away it had also been quite hard work!

She got back from the airport in time to pick Erika up from nursery, which meant I was able to go to my usual late meetings which happen every Wednesday before going home to have dinner with the girls.
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Twelfth Night
[Tuesday 5th January 2016]
With Chie still in Japan I both dropped Erika off and picked her up from nursery today, but unlike yesterday I actually needed to go into the office, so that made for a bit of a short day at work - I tried to make up for that later on in the evening after Erika had gone to bed.

In the evening Erika and I took down the Christmas tree and decorations, it being twelfth night (or is that actually the 6th? I'm never quite sure). That corner of the lounge looked rather bare and a little sad without the tree!
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Monday
[Monday 4th January 2016]
Although Chie was still in Japan, there was somewhat of a return to normality today, as I would be working in the daytime, and we'd arranged for Erika to go to nursery a couple of extra days this week.

As it turned out though I decided to work from home, since there wasn't anything particular I needed to be in the office for, and it would save an hour or so of commuting, which is particularly useful given the added constraints of having to drop Erika off at nursery at the start of the day, and pick her up at the end.

Since Chie gave up work in October I've got out of the habit of the nursery run - nowadays Erika just tends to go to nursery Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Chie drops her off and picks her up most of the time so I can spend a bit longer at work. I realised this week I actually miss it a bit, the pick up in particular is really nice as she's (almost) always really pleased to see me. The downside of course is that now I rely on the tube for commuting, the margins for error have to be a lot wider - although theoretically my commute is about half an hour, and Erika's nursery closes at 6, to be on the safe side when I'm picking her up I tend to feel the need to leave not long after 5. Of course that will get a bit easier when my office finally moves to King's Cross - hopefully some time this year.
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Stick Man
[Sunday 3rd January 2016]
Took Erika to the Stick Man show. I thought it was a bit rubbish but Erika seemed to like it.
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Grey and Miserable
[Saturday 2nd January 2016]
Rather a grey and miserable day. Was running out of ideas for things to do so we just went to the playground for a bit, and went to our nearby pasta place for lunch.
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New Year's Day
[Saturday 1st January 2016]
Erika and I had planned to go down to Devon toay to see Geandad, but the trains completely failed us, so we decided to just stay in London and go to Naoko-san's New Year's Day party instead.
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Zoo and New Year's Eve
[Thursday 31st December 2015]
Took Erika to the zoo in the daytime, then had the slightly surreal experience of spending New Year's Eve with my sole company being a 3 year old with absolutely no grasp of the significance of the event.
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Back to London
[Wednesday 30th December 2015]
Just one picture of Erika eating Maltesers on the train back to London.
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To The East Midlands
[Tuesday 29th December 2015]
Erika and I got the train up to the East Midlands to visit Grandma.
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Winter Wonderland
[Monday 28th December 2015]
First full day of my week-and-a-bit stint of lookinf after Erika by myself while Chie was in Japan - took Erika to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
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Guildford
[Sunday 27th December 2015]
Went down to Guildford for a festive visit to Adrian, Liz and the kids in the afternoon, and then Chie flew off to Japan in the evening.
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Boxing Day
[Saturday 26th December 2015]
Dim sum for lunch.
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Christmas Day
[Friday 25th December 2015]
Christmas Day, spent mostly at home, with a foray out to the pub.
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Christmas Eve
[Thursday 24th December 2015]
The day before Christmas, doing festive things, and putting out the mince pie etc for Santa.
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Christmas Shopping
[Wednesday 23rd December 2015]
Took the afternoon off to do Christmas shopping, and fit in a stroll around St. James's and a visit to my club.
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Tuesday
[Tuesday 22nd December]
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Monday
[Monday 21st December 2015]
Just one picture of the Christmas tree etc.
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